For Filipina Comedians, the Struggle is Hilariously Real

Community News & Features Aug 10, 2018 at 4:05 pm
Island Womxn Rise performers. Photo by Nastasha Alli

Island Womxn Rise performers. (Photo: Nastasha Alli)

REVIEW: Island Womxn Rise

By Irish Mae Silvestre

I don’t want to start off with the cliched ‘Asians are extremely underrepresented in the entertainment industry’ because, well, Asians are extremely underrepresented in the entertainment industry.
But something is slowly shifting.

There’s Ali Wong and her Netflix stand-up special Baby Cobra and actress/rapper Awkwafina rubbing shoulders with Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett in Ocean’s 8. Former Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh was nominated for an Emmy for her role as an MI5 agent in the British dramedy Killing Eve. And let’s not forget the feverish anticipation for Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s book-turned-movie set in the lavish world of Singaporean socialites. It stars Constance Wu Dare I say it? It seems that being female and Asian in the entertainment industry is suddenly trendy.

Which is perhaps what makes Island Womxn Rise even more relevant. Set in Bad Dog Theatre Company in the Bloor and Ossington area, Island Womxn is an all-Filipina show featuring sketches and stand-up performances. It’s a tongue-in-cheek commentary on what it means to be Filipino-Canadian in today’s world. Nothing is taboo, nothing is off-limits so you’d best check your sensitivities at the door.

Members of the Tita Collective.   (Photos provided)

Members of the Tita Collective. (Photo provided)

First up was Alia Rasul, who, with her ukulele, led the audience to a cheery sing-along to ‘Why Don’t You F*ck a Toaster,’ a sweet melody with not-so-sweet lyrics dedicated to an ex. Nikki Cajucom took to the stage to share insights gleaned from her own interracial relationship, while Marie Sotto talked about the joys and pitfalls of being raised by a tiger mom. “There’s God and there’s my Filipino mom – all seeing and all powerful,” stated Sotto. “When they raise a slipper – you see that in your nightmares.”

In-keeping with the family theme, Carolina Gonzaga added her two cents with her take on Asian parenting. “My theory about Filipino parents is this: to make their kids think they’re better than everyone else but not good enough to for the family,” she quipped.

With her droll and deadpan delivery, Erika Ehler talked about the struggles of being biracial. Since she doesn’t look Filipino, she said that people often ask her to prove that she’s Filipino. “I’m sorry I don’t look like a bowl of adobo,” she said.

Next on the stage was the Tita Collective, a group made up of five women who performed various songs and skits. One song mentioned famous Filipinos like Bruno Mars “and that guy from Deuce Bigalow.” There was also a skit (narrated like a basketball game) that featured two moms boasting about having the smartest, brightest and most successful daughters.

In between karaoke and getting PTSD from the threat of the “tsinelas” are more serious topics like mental illness, racism and the plight of domestic workers in the Middle East. The show provides a unique glimpse into the minds of young Filipino-Canadian women – really funny ones at that.

Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and even a cameo by Kris Aquino.

And they’re only getting started.

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(Photo provided)

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The Tita Collective

Who? AP Bautista, Belinda Corpuz, Isabel Kanaan, Alia Rasul and Maricris Rivera

What? We are Filipinx multidisciplinary artists; individually trained and practicing actors, comedians, musicians, and writers who create works that focus on and elevate the narrative of the Philippine diaspora.

When? We met in 2016/2017 to create and perform a play with the Carlos Bulosan Theatre and decided to continue to collaborate together. In March 2018, we performed our first work, Kwento, an improvised Filipino folktale, at the Bad Dog Theatre’s Test Drive Festival. Since then, we’ve continued to collaborate with each other as the Tita Collective and have gone on to produce the Tawa Festival (the first Filipinx Comedy Festival), Island Womxn Rise (all-Filipina variety show) and a remount of Kwento.

Where? In November, we’ll be mounting a staged reading of Tang Ina, a new play by Alia Rasul, supported by the Toronto Arts Council. We’re also developing Tita Jokes, a musical sketch comedy supported by the Pat and Tony Freedom Fund and the Toronto Sketch Fest. Additionally, we’re planning a cabaret series in the fall to present new works by us and other artists we collaborate with.
Why? We wanted to honour all Titas: our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, all the women who continually guide us, and whose fight has paved the way for us to own a space to create art. We also wanted to say that we’re ready to join the struggle to make space for other Philippine Womxn.